(A sequel to Stuck in a Rut)
Half of Rose’s heart wants to say yes to Ndirangu. She likes him. Perhaps even loves him. He has a sense of self-assurance, bordering on cockiness, that she finds very appealing. She is also attracted by his rough edges. Ndirangu is not a refined gentleman, if you consider modern standards of masculine flair. He does not wear perfume, his trousers can be converted into circle skirts with only minor alterations and he does not fuss over social graces. He is a traditional African man, and proud of it.
She loves him for that. However, these very attributes present the problem. What will her friends say if she dates a form two drop out? One who cannot hold a complete conversation in English? One who has a heavy Kikuyu accent? She knows there is no way she will present Ndirangu to her judgmental friends. Her crew prefers sleek men who speak with western accents and who wear Gucci with expensive cologne.
This crew influenced her to leave her first love Dave, and introduced her to that player Tony. The one who dumped her after only two months. Dave has since moved on. He has another girlfriend, and they are all over each other on social media. Rose knows she should not be jealous, but she is. That is her Dave. That should be her. It hurts her to see him happy with another woman, but then it is not his fault. She left him for another man.
She loves Ndirangu. At least she thinks she does. That is all that matters, right? She can ignore her friends. Ndirangu is right. They should respect her decisions. And if they are not happy for her, then she should probably get new friends. But why is she still uneasy about all this?
She has dreaded this moment ever since Ndirangu asked her to marry him, and not just because she fears being judged by her friends. Ndirangu is not exactly a romantic man. So, by saying yes to him, she will be kissing flowers, chocolates and candle lit dinners goodbye. For life. She will, from the moment she marries him, be expected to be a traditional wife. To cook, take care of the children and generally be housewife. She is not sure she is ready for that, and that is the main reason for her apprehension. She hates her job as a teller in a Sacco, and the miserable 20k she earns, but that is not to say that she prefers to be a housewife. She wants more career wise, not less.
These are the thoughts that are crossing her mind as she walks hurriedly down Moi Avenue to Ambassadeur, where she is meeting him. When he suggested that they meet there, she had been puzzled. Why would they meet at a bus stop? He might be a 15th century Neanderthal, but that would be stooping too low. I mean, she is a 31 year old career woman, and he is a 38 year old man successful businessman. They cannot meet at Archives like college students. Then she realized that he meant Hotel Ambassadeur. She had laughed at herself. The place has been a landmark in the CBD for such a long time that she has never thought of it as a hotel.
She climbs up the steps of the hotel and a disinterested female guard searches her and allows her in. Her heart is beating rapidly now. The moment of reckoning is nigh. She has delayed her response for two months now, and she has no more cards to play. She has pushed his patience to the limits. She is very afraid. Saying yes today will dramatically change her life. It will mean that she is going to be a step mother. Will his children accept her? Is she even ready to be a mother?
She steps into the hotel’s main restaurant and spots him seated at a corner, reading a newspaper. As she walks towards him, he looks up and smiles.
“Hi Rose. Glad you made it,”
No hug. He does not even comment on her new dress. Or her newly made hair. Not that she expected it. She is used to it now. Oh Lord, is this my life now?
She smiles back at him.
“Hi Ndirangu. Sorry to keep you waiting,”
“No, it is okay. Please have seat,”
“So how have you been?” he asks.
They order for food and eat as they make small talk. Rose is just beginning to think that he will not be asking about his proposal when he says casually,
“By the way Rose. I am sure you have made a decision by now. Do you want to be my wife or not?”
If she did not know him well, she would have been offended. His question borders on rude. But that is just how he speaks. Direct and to the point, even when he is courting a woman. She can still break free from this by saying no. And knowing him, he will respect her decision without a fuss. He would be disappointed and perhaps hurt if she said no, but she knows he would not begrudge her. Which is why she loves him.
Is it normal to want a man and not want him at the same time? Is it even normal? Why is her life so complicated?
He is continuing to eat, as if he has not asked a question that is threatening to alter the course of her life forever. He is not even looking at her.
Surely she should say no. A normal, modern day girl would say no.
She takes a deep breath.
“Yes Ndirangu. I will be your wife,”
There, she said it. Who lives on flowers anyway? They cannot even be eaten. And if she wants chocolates, she will buy them herself.
He looks up and smiles.
“Thank you. And by the way, I have a little gift for you.” he says, pushing a brown envelope to her side of the table.
She looks at the envelope suspiciously before opening it. In there are draft share transfer forms. He is transferring 20% of his holding company, the Ndirangu Group, to her. The company that owns all his businesses. There is also an appointment letter, making her a member of the board and the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the Company, with a starting salary of Kshs. 210,000.
Her jaw drops.
“If I am going to be your wife Ndirangu, you do not have to pay me. Besides, I am not qualified to be COO of anything. I just have a B.Com degree and I have only worked as a teller at a small, struggling SACCO.”
“First, I draw a salary from the company as the CEO. If you are going to work for the company, you will also get a salary. We can discuss finances in marriage when both of us are earning. Second, I am a form two drop out but I have built these businesses myself. I have watched you and I know you have what it takes. Besides, you have a degree, I have the business experience. We can help each other out,”
This was more that she expected from this man. She feels like hugging him, but he is still a traditional man, and a church deacon. She does not want to be inappropriate.
“Thank you” she whispers. Tears are welling in her eyes.
He winks at a waiter. A band materializes from the inner sanctums of the hotel and walks towards their table. A violinist, a saxophonist, two guitarists and three vocalists, singing Joey and Rory’s Let it be Me.
There are few other people in the restaurant. There are three men huddled in one corner, engaged in an intense discussion and an old, white couple who are looking at the band with mild interest. Ndirangu’s two young sons appear behind the band, carrying red roses. Rose almost chokes, realizing what is happening.
“Aunt Rose, can we start calling you mum now?” the older one, Mark, asks while handing her the flowers.
She glances at Ndirangu, who is now smiling sheepishly. What did he tell these kids? Rose chokes and starts sobbing. Ndirangu stands up, walks to her side of the table and hugs her.
“I am sorry if I upset you Aunt Rose,” Mark says.
Rose disentangles from Ndirangu and hugs both boys tightly, smiling through her tears.
Image source: https://pixabay.com/en/people-portrait-male-pensive-black-1733391/